The Bridge Man - Photographer
My Passion of Photography
I have been photographing New York's bridges
since 1993. The precision half of my photographic work is my German side and the artistic half is my Hungarian side. Both of them combined seems very effective.
I have been involved with photography since I was 7 years old. My first camera was a Kodak “Brownie.” Ansel Adams first camera was also a “Brownie.” I also used the early box cameras that had large negatives. Not having an enlarger at the time, these cameras were nice to have. My photography varied through the years and after borrowing everyone’s camera for many vacation trips, I decided to buy my own 35 mm camera. At the same time my father had a poster print of Ansel Adams “Moonrise.” He pointed out to me, look at this amazing image! I looked at it carefully and thought it was okay. But after being at my parents’ house so many times, I kept looking at the poster and it began to raise my interest. I said to myself, wow! This image had to be manipulated. It could not have occurred naturally. Then I said to myself, I have heard about this fellow, Ansel Adams and I must find out more about his work.
So I called the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park and they had me contact Jeff Nixon, who was Ansel’s workshop assistant. After talking with Jeff for about one year, he invited me to take a few workshops with him. I spent two weeks in Sornora, Mono Lake and Bodie, an old ghost town. A year later I met John Sexton, who was Ansel’s personal assistant for many years. John as well as Jeff’s work really inspired me and John invited me to take some workshops with him. On one of his workshops I met a fellow named Morley Baer. Morley himself was a very accomplished photographer and had worked with Ansel and Edward Weston.
Morley’s work was very beautiful and his printing skills were just amazing! When we (the group) were in his Darkroom he called me over to him and asked my opinion on this print he just developed. I felt he had a certain liking to me. When we had a critique, John downed my work as being too big and not having a dramatic impact. Morley however liked my work very much. I did however respect John’s opinion and this made me work at my photography much harder! Some other people that had a great influence on my thought process and work are other members of Ansel’s family and Othmar Ammann and members of his family. Othmar Ammann was the engineer who designed the great George Washington Bridge.
It was not until I purchased a photograph from Morley and in a letter he wrote, Dave, your photographs reflect much work and understanding. Put your excitement to work on a subject that you care dearly about. This made me think, what can I do that no one else has done and in a different way? Then I remembered that John had taken his 4x5 camera to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, Ron Wisner, who manufactures the large field cameras I use, was on the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Their photos were magnificent!
In the very beginning I had no idea on how to start but things just went along and everything seemed to work itself out. Most people can't believe my fearlessness of heights. I vividly remember when my grandfather took me to the top of the Empire State Building and all I wanted to do I look straight down! My grandfather however was scared to death! I suppose from this experience I had no fear of heights! In fact, I just loved being up so high.
My work on this long-term project has been exhilarating and fascinating as I began to study bridges and began to realize they are engineering marvels. It came to my attention that in order to be able to capture a subject on film, paper, or canvas, one must understand your subject fully. For me, being able to “Feel The Steel” was a way of understanding how and why bridges work and function. My vision of the great structures was getting better every year! For most of my images I take on the Bridges, I use a Hasselblad Camera in conjunction with a “Gyro” stabilizer.
Top of The World"
Dave Frieder atop the Manhattan Bridge
Dave Frieder on the main cable
of Throgs Neck Bridge.
The “Ground Views” of the bridges I use 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 large format field cameras. All these cameras and formats are tools just like a mechanic uses different size wrenches to do his work.
This great relationship with the bridges and the authorities continued flawlessly for eight years until the gut wrenching tragic events of 911. I was completely overwhelmed by what happened that day and it hit me very hard, as I was appalled on so many people being killed and some of our best-known structures being either damaged or destroyed. I just could not believe my eyes the total destruction of the World Trade Center Towers. I loved the towers as they had such clean simple lines but showing great power of being nothing less then awesome! It took a while but I realized that I had hundreds of photographs of New York Bridges with the Twin Towers in the image. It still hurts me to this day to look at some of my photographs as it reminds me of better days and what once were.
As of this date Frieder has climbed sixteen of
New York's Great Bridges. Frieder has studied under John Sexton, personal
assistant to Ansel Adams and Jeff Nixon,
workshop assistant to Ansel Adams and
Morley Baer, a well known photographer
who has extensively photographed the
Big Sur coast of California. Frieder is a member
of (A.S.M.P.) American Society of Media
Adams- Ansel Adams, his work and
his teaching have had a tremendous impact
on my career as a "Fine Art" architectural
and landscape photographer. His incredible
vision, his insight, his amazing darkroom
skills have all contributed to his beautiful
photographs. When Frieder saw his "Moonrise" photograph
and realized it was made through his "inner
vision" he knew then, photography is what he
wanted to do more than anything else!
Nixon- Frieder met Jeff after talking
to the Ansel Adams Gallery in California to
learn more about the great photographer. Jeff
was Ansel's workshop assistant for many years.
After talking to him for some time Frieder met him and took a couple of workshops with him.
Jeff has taught him to listen and understand
the subjects that he photographs.
Sexton- Frieder was introduced to John
by Jeff Nixon. He had known of John's work
for years but always wanted to meet him.
He had the great pleasure of meeting John on
a one to one basis. He was printing photographs
for potential customers and Frieder was amazed at
his technical and printing skills. He truly
is a "Master Printer". Frieder had taken several
workshops with him and in the beginning did not get very favorable comments from him
on his work. Frieder was not going to give up! This
made him work ten times harder and he has to
thank John for those comments that day!
Baer- Frieder met Morley during a John
Sexton Photographic Workshop. Morley is a
great influence on his photographic career.
Frieder was very much intrigued by his work and
his visual sense. Morley made a statement
in a letter to him that basically lead him to
photographing the great bridges of New York
City. He told Frieder that his photographs reflect
much work and understanding. He told him, "Dave,
put your excitement to work on a subject that
you care most dearly about." Frieder will always
remember Morley for his words of wisdom!
Ammann- Frieder never had the opportunity
to meet the greatest bridge builder of all
time, but he does have the distinct pleasure
of photographing all the great bridges he
designed. Frieder's favorite bridge of all, one that
Ammann designed and built is the George Washington
Bridge. It was this bridge Frieder crossed more
than any other bridge and is always in awe
looking at its incredible steelwork. It is
truly an engineering masterpiece. Othmar Ammann
was an artist in his own right. What Ansel
Adams did with photography, Othmar Ammann
did with Civil Engineering.